February 21, 2018 / 7:37 PM / 9 months ago

Lawsuits challenge Electoral College system in four U.S. states

BOSTON (Reuters) - A coalition that includes a Latino membership organization and a former Massachusetts governor filed lawsuits on Wednesday challenging how four U.S. states allocate their Electoral College votes in presidential elections.

The lawsuits were filed in federal courts in Massachusetts and California, states that went for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, and South Carolina and Texas, where a majority of votes went to Republican U.S. President Donald Trump.

The lawsuits challenge the winner-take-all system used in those states to select electors who cast votes for president and vice president in the Electoral College after a presidential election. Forty-four other states and the District of Columbia also use that system.

Under that system, the candidate who wins the popular vote in a given state gets all its electors. To win the presidency, a candidate must win at least 270 votes from the 538 electors in the Electoral College.

Critics complain that the Electoral College system allows a candidate to win a presidential election despite losing the nationwide popular vote.

In 2016, Trump won the Electoral College vote while Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots. In the 2000 election, then-Vice President Al Gore, the Democrat, got the most votes but Republican George W. Bush won the presidency.

The lawsuits contend that system denies citizens their constitutional right to an equal vote by discarding votes for candidates who lose in a state and magnifying the votes of those who win there.

Among those leading the litigation is David Boies, a prominent lawyer who represented Gore in the U.S. Supreme Court case that settled the disputed 2000 election in favour of Bush.

“Under the winner-take-all system, U.S. citizens have been denied their constitutional right to an equal vote in Presidential elections,” Boies said in a statement. “This is a clear violation of the principle of one person, one vote.”

The lawsuits were filed by among others the League of United Latin American Citizens and William Weld, a former Republican governor of Massachusetts who ran for vice president in 2016 on the Libertarian Party ticket.

The Electoral College process was established in the Constitution as a compromise between electing a president by a vote in Congress and by popular vote of citizens.

Maine and Nebraska have a variation of “proportional representation” that can result in a split of their electors between the candidates.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by David Gregorio

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